This paper presents the first groundwater‒energy‒food (GEF) nexus study of Iran’s agronomic crops based on national and provincial datasets and firsthand estimates of agricultural groundwater withdrawal. We use agronomic crop production, water withdrawal, and energy consumption data to estimate groundwater withdrawal from electric-powered irrigation wells and examine agronomic productivity in Iran’s 31 provinces through the lens of GEF nexus. The ex-post GEF analysis sheds light on some of the root causes of the nation’s worsening water shortage problems. Access to highly subsidized water (surface water and groundwater) and energy has been the backbone of agricultural expansion policies in Iran, supporting employment in agrarian communities. Consequently, water use for agronomic crop production has greatly overshot the renewable water supply capacity of the country, making water bankruptcy a serious national security threat. Significant groundwater table decline across the country and increasing energy consumption underscore dysfunctional feedback relations between agricultural water and energy price and groundwater withdrawal in an inefficient agronomic sector. Thus, it is essential to implement holistic policy reforms aimed at reducing agricultural water consumption to alleviate the looming water bankruptcy threats, which can lead to the loss of numerous agricultural jobs in the years to come.
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